Former Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna has increased his lead over Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva after the latest vote update in the race to be the county’s next sheriff.
Updated totals from the Tuesday election released Friday by the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office showed Luna with more than 58% of the vote — a slight uptick — and Villanueva with just under 42% — a slight downturn.
The updated count released Friday had Luna with 820,832 votes and Villanueva with 585,164.
Another update is expected to be released Saturday, then every Tuesday and Friday until all ballots are counted — a process that could last until the end of the month.
“So far, the returns look good, and our campaign has a significant lead,” Luna said in a statement Wednesday. “And I believe that as more votes are counted in the days ahead, I’ll continue to maintain a lead in this race. L.A. County voted for change, and if I’m elected sheriff, I’ll bring new leadership, accountability, and effective strategies to reduce crime.”
Luna is looking to pull off a rare feat by unseating a sitting sheriff.
Villanueva’s victory four years ago over incumbent Jim McDonnell marked the first time in roughly a century that a sheriff had lost a re-election bid in the county. But now Villanueva finds himself in danger of meeting the same fate at the hands of Luna.
The sheriff expressed confidence, however, that he would make up the deficit from early balloting as vote counting continued over the coming week.
“Let’s see what the vote says,” he told KCAL9 at his Monterey Park election night party Tuesday. “… I think people just want to see the things that matter to them addressed — homelessness and violent crime.”
Luna, speaking to his supporters in Long Beach Tuesday night, noted that the vote-counting will take a long time, but said he feels good about the direction of the numbers.
“As I have met so many people throughout this great county, there was one thing that was very obvious to me … people were talking about the need for change,” Luna said.
He said that as sheriff, he will be “accountable at the end of the day,” and will work to ensure “integrity” in the department.
The candidates ran a spirited campaign, with Luna attacking the incumbent over his torrid relationship with the county Board of Supervisors and accusing him of ignoring the issue of deputy gangs within the department. Villanueva has deflected such criticism, saying his battles with the board show he is a fierce defender of the department and its deputies, and insisting that he has gone to great lengths to attack and ban alleged deputy cliques in the agency.
Villanueva’s victory four years ago came with strong backing from reform-minded community groups and Democrats. But over the past four years, Villanueva’s support among those groups has waned as he repeatedly clashed with the Democrat-dominated Board of Supervisors over funding and policy matters.
Villanueva has also repeatedly defied subpoenas to appear before the Civilian Oversight Commission and refused to enforce the county’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate among his deputies and department employees.
Villanueva’s campaign insists he has worked to restore public trust in the sheriff’s department, pointing to the rollout of body-worn cameras and boosting minimum requirements for new deputies. The campaign also boasts the agency is “the most diverse in the nation.”
“In his next term, Sheriff Villanueva will work to reduce violent crime, compassionately clean up homeless encampments and hold public officials accountable for their actions,” according to his campaign.
Luna has argued during the campaign that the sheriff’s department is being “mismanaged” by Villanueva and said he will work to restore trust in the agency. He also touted his position as an outsider with no connections to the sheriff’s department.
“Growing up in East Los Angeles, patrolled by the sheriff’s department, opened my eyes to examples of both good and bad policing, and inspired my 36-year career in law enforcement,” Luna said in a candidate statement.
Luna said he will work to “modernize” the sheriff’s department and its jail system and improve the mental well-being of deputies and employees.